Society is obsessed with being number one. It’s like in the movie “Fight Club” when Tyler Durden says you never really know who you are until you’ve been in a fight. The debates about being the best are endless because we will never have an opportunity to see the best face off.
The conversation keeps us going, and this week we saw the debate around college football rage on. ESPN replayed the 2006 Rose Bowl between Texas and USC, and that once again sparked the question: Which college football team is the greatest of all time?
Both of those teams have an argument. The 2005 Texas Longhorns averaged 50 points a game and had nearly every player make the NFL. But they’re not the greatest football team of all time. They make it close, but the top five college football teams goes as follows.
5. 2005 Texas Longhorns
The Longhorns needed no introduction, but this team was unstoppable in that season. They ran the table by averaging 50 points a game and had the best quarterback of the season in Vince Young. He was paired with a talented group with Michael Huff, Jamaal Charles, and Brian Orakpo.
It was hard not to like this team. With the high-flying offense, big bull mascot, star power, and Matthew McConaughey roaming the sidelines like it was a Lincoln car commercial, this team had it all.
In fact, in the Rose Bowl game against USC, 34 of the 44 starters went on to start in the NFL, making it one of the most star-studded games in the history of the game. It was a fun team that became one of the most memorable of the modern college football era.
4. 1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers
Call it recency bias, but this is the only team before 2000 on the list. Nebraska was just so impressive in 1971. If Johnny Rodgers played in the era of Twitter, we’d be talking about him as the greatest running back of all time. “The Jet” won the Heisman Trophy in 1972, but was just as dominant running, catching, and returning in 1971.
One of the most dominant teams in college football, the Cornhuskers were a defensive juggernaut in 1971. They went on to win all 13 games and held 10 teams to 7 points or fewer on the season. Nebraska only gave up more than 17 points in one game the entire season when they beat the Oklahoma Sooners 35-31 on Thanksgiving Day.
It cannot be stated enough how impressive Nebraska’s season was. They beat Oklahoma, Colorado, and Alabama, who all finished the season ranked two, three, and four, respectively. So not only did they beat everyone, they proved themselves by beating the biggest contenders in their path.
3. 2019 LSU Tigers
Quarterback Joe Burrow put together what is likely the most impressive season in the history of college football. The Heisman Trophy winning quarterback had 5,671 yards passing and 60 touchdowns. His ability is not questioned, and the offense was legendarily good.
LSU also beat the best of the best. They ended the season beating seven top 10 ranked teams and did so mostly in convincing fashion. I’ll never forget how the Tigers made the Georgia defense look like a JV team, and the Bulldogs were the top rated defense in the country. They had one of the most impressive seasons ever, but not impressive enough to crack the top two.
2. 2004 USC Trojans
Vacating wins is like deleting pictures of your ex-girlfriend after the breakup: Just because you want to erase the record doesn’t mean it erases the memories. The undefeated USC Trojans went on to win their second straight National Championship in 2004 with a team that was filled with stars. The Trojans had two Heisman Trophy players on the roster, Matt Leinart at quarterback and Reggie Bush, who won it the next season.
This team was so loaded that Bush was the backup running back in 2004, as Lendale White got the majority of the carries. USC had such an aura about them that many teams lost before they even stepped on the field. Just seeing that cardinal and gold jersey would strike fear in their opponents.
The Trojans saved their best for last that season, with a 55-19 shellacking of the Oklahoma Sooners, who had a former Heisman winner in Jason White at quarterback and star running back Adrian Peterson, who was essentially shut out in this one. The final two wins were vacated due to recruiting violations, but this team withstands the test of time as one of the best ever.
1. 2001 Miami Hurricanes
The greatest roster ever accumulated was the 2001 Canes, who steamrolled everyone on the way to a championship. Miami had one game finish in the single digits, their regular season finale win over Virginia Tech. Then they went on to the Rose Bowl and delivered a dominating performance over Nebraska for the title. They led 34-0 at halftime before letting their foot off the gas and winning 37-14.
Everywhere you looked, this team was loaded. Ken Dorsey was the best quarterback in the country. Clinton Portis the best running back. Andre Johnson the best wide receiver. Jeremy Shockey the best tight end. Jonathan Vilma the best linebacker. Ed Reed the best safety. Vince Wilfork, Willis McGahee, Phillip Buchanon – the list goes on. This team was so good that future Hall of Fame running back Frank Gore was the third string running back on the depth chart. He played mostly in garbage time and was one of the best running backs in the NFL later.
The Miami Hurricane schedule won’t compare to Nebraska, USC, or LSU, but there’s no doubt that there will never be a collection of talent like the 2001 Miami Hurricanes again.
Written by: Kyle Grondin